There could be more to SA’s salt addiction…
The more salt we consume, the more at risk it puts us of heart disease and stroke, which annually claims the lives of 78 475 people in our country.
A fascinating piece of research done by Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences in the US suggests that people who tend to salt their food more could be ‘supertasters’. These are people whose sense of taste is heightened possibly due to the TAS2R38 bitter taste receptor gene.
In gist, supertasters typically add more salt to their food to disguise or cancel out the bitter taste the palate picks up when eating certain foods such as cheddar cheese, broccoli, spinach or olives for example. Whereas those with a more neutral sense of taste are less inclined to add additional salt.
Currently, SA’s discretionary salt consumption sits at 41% a day, which may indicate that many South Africans have been dealt the ‘supertaster’ gene, especially if one considers that in most other Westernised countries, the discretionary use of salt is in the region of 15%, pointing to a more neutral sense of taste.
The challenge to find out if you’re a ‘supertaster’ is being put to the public in the wake of World Salt Awareness Week (12-16 March) by Pharma Dynamics – a prevention-minded pharmaceutical company that promotes a diet low in sodium.
Despite being the biggest provider of cardiovascular medication in South Africa, Pharma Dynamics promotes prevention over cure. Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for the health firm, says even though modern medicine can help patients to manage symptoms, it’s important to tackle the root cause if we are to curb the growing number of diseases, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, which are primarily related to lifestyle.
Experts estimate that limiting salt consumption could decrease 11% of deaths from heart disease per year and save the SA government in the region of R713-million per annum in healthcare fees.
Salt consumption in SA still remains alarmingly high with most adults ingesting as much as 40g a day, which is way above the World Health Organisation’s recommended intake of less than 5g a day.
Low sodium recipes with great salt-swapping tips approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA, can be found at www.cookingfromtheheart.co.za.
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